On second thought, Mr. Cheney


On the last day of 2008, a little bird told me that the venerable American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vt., a beacon for the nation's fly-fishers and a keeper of their rich tradition, had landed Vice President Dick Cheney as the guest of honor and speaker at its spring 2009 meeting.  So I posted the news on a blog I run for Fly Rod & Reel magazine.

Within hours, the museum was shoveling out from a blizzard of nasty-grams. For two weeks it kept mum. Then it hatched a form letter (at this writing under review by the vice president's staff) in which it offers lengthy and incomprehensible excuses for inviting Cheney, while likening him to presidents Jimmy Carter and Franklin Roosevelt.  It then implores Cheney's critics to "continue to support the museum and its mission."  I will certainly do so, and to prove it, I have redrafted the form letter for the museum, at no charge:

"Dear [name]: We need to generate revenue, so we searched hard and long for a guest of honor who would fill the room at our spring meeting.  Finally, we hit upon Dick Cheney, arguably the most dangerous enemy of fish in our generation. What's more, Mr. Cheney, who angles for trout in Wyoming in one of the rivers he hasn't ruined with gas and oil extraction (which happens to run through his ranch) is an accomplished and safe fly caster. In fact, he hasn't wounded even one of his fishing companions.

"We completely understand that applying green lipstick to this arch environmental villain, aptly dubbed 'Darth Vader' in fish and wildlife conservation circles, is outright whoring.  But that's the genius of our plan. This kind of prostitution is legal and no less lucrative than the standard, unlawful variety.

"And please recall, from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, the enormous crowds the King and the Duke were able to draw to their 'Royal Nonesuch' performances, in which the King painted himself and pranced around the stage naked and on all fours, while the Duke collected the money at the door. Sure, they eventually got themselves tarred and feathered and run out of town, but their first few gigs generated an avalanche of revenue. We're only planning one.

"Please recall also our mission statement: 'The American Museum of Fly Fishing promotes an understanding of and appreciation for the history, traditions, and practitioners, past and present, of the sport of fly fishing.'  You cannot deny that a major part of that history and those traditions is the systematic destruction of rivers by special interests and the politicians who front for them.  Can there be a better choice than traditional practitioner Dick Cheney -- the man who gave the West the biggest fish kill it has ever seen when he attempted to wean Klamath River chinook salmon from water, who trashed the Endangered Species Act, who virtually canceled the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, who suppressed science, who ruined the lives of dedicated resource professionals, and who ran Christine Todd Whitman out of the EPA?

"So tight is the prose of The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times that these papers have been able to fit entire stories into just their headlines, i.e.: 'Dick Cheney's Last-Gasp Fight Against Clean Air' and 'Dick Cheney Battles Laura Bush over Protecting Pacific Ocean.'

"You can't believe the publicity we have generated by our decision to make the Veep our honoree. We even netted a comment from book publisher and author Nick Lyons, the unofficial dean of American fly fishers: 'As a longtime member and supporter of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, I am appalled that the museum would honor such a dreadful, dangerous man.  He is the enemy of just about everything I value.'

"And no less a fishing icon than Joel Vance, past president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, offers this in his column for Outdoor Guide: 'If the fly fishing museum goes ahead with its plan to slobber over Dick Cheney, then I will boycott it….  I would have gladly paid $5 admission to see the exhibits, but not if one of them is the 'Dick Cheney Drill, Baby, Drill exhibit.'

"Finally, despite his lamentable crudeness, we'll quote our pro bono publicist, Ted Williams, who uses the vulgar term for that invasive alga, Didymosphenia geminata, now smothering fish habitat across North America: 'Thanks for the memories, Dick. We're gonna miss you like rock snot.'"

Ted Williams is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is the conservation editor for Fly Rod & Reel magazine.


Anonymous says:
Jan 27, 2009 11:00 AM
What a bizarre choice. Maybe the board members want to get the shotgun treatment too!
Anonymous says:
Jan 27, 2009 03:22 PM
Below are the pathetic and unintelligible excuse offered by the fly fishing museum in a draft form letter now being reviewed by Dick Cheney’s assistant.

Dear [Name]:

We have received your letter/e-mail expressing concern that The American Museum of Fly Fishing has extended an invitation to Vice President Dick Cheney to be the guest speaker at a Museum-sponsored dinner in 2009. While we appreciate your opinion regarding our selection of the Vice President, and your evident interest in the activities that this Museum undertakes, we are excited to hold this dinner and the Board and staff are honored that the Vice President has agreed to attend. We hope that you continue to support the Museum and its mission.

The Museum's Articles of Association identify its purpose to include the preservation of fly fishing "memorabilia for education of the general public on the history of fly fishing ..." The back cover of our award-winning journal, The American Fly Fisher, confirms this purpose by noting in each issue that the Museum serves as a repository for rods, reels, flies, tackle, art, books, and artifacts relating to the rich heritage of fly fishing.

Among the Museum's prized collections is one that contains the fishing equipment used by past presidents of the United States, regardless of their performance in office, their political leanings, or their current or past reputations. Our premier traveling exhibition, Anglers All, highlights the fly fishing paraphernalia of former presidents Carter, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, F. D. Roosevelt, and George .H.W. Bush. Controversy attended the administrations of each of these men. Fly fishing rods, reels, and flies of internationally acclaimed entertainers, writers, and industrialists, among other well-known people, grace our collections. We did not vet any of these contributions using a standard of political popularity nor could we serve the Museum's overarching purpose had we done so. The Museum's commitment to the total history of fly fishing is inclusive.

Vice President Dick Cheney is a significant historical figure in this country and the world and an avid, lifelong fly fisherman. The Museum is a nonpolitical institution that seeks to enhance its collections and richly preserve fly fishing artifacts, including those used by major figures in our own country's history, as we have done for decades.

We hope that this letter assists in expressing our reasons for honoring the Vice President and accepting his fly fishing artifacts into the Museum as a part of its permanent collection.

Very truly yours,

Cathi Comar
Executive Director
Anonymous says:
Jan 30, 2009 01:16 PM
Notice how the Museum attempts to equate opposition to Cheney's appearance to a simple lack of "popularity" attributed to the Bush administration.

For the museum's benefit - and as one of the people who has fought for the last handful of years to prevent the depredations visited up on our wild places and water by Dick Cheney's ruinous policies - it's got <i>nothing to do with popularity</i>.

And everything to do with honoring an "avid fly fisherman" who's done more than any person in recent history to damage the natural habitats needed to sustain the sport.

Let's call a spade a spade, shall we? Honoring Dick Cheney is is a fundraising effort (and if it's not, then I fear for the future of the museum).
Anonymous says:
Feb 13, 2009 05:32 PM
Executive Director Cathi Comar’s position on this topic is correct.
Mr. Williams, makes his living creating controversy, and does not represent the entire fly fishing community, just the lunatics. My reply is not in defense of Dick as much as a rejection of William’s never ending self righteous, self serving blathering. Where as Williams does have his points; Williams is the same guy that made a comment on his blog in support of a fellow arrested for shooting house cats from a van parked on a Texas highway next to a toll booth! The cats were pets of the tool booth workers. Williams mumbled something like, this guy deserves a medal. Williams has lost credibility with many serious fly fishermen and outdoorsman. I am quite sure having the former VP will generate needed money for the Museum. That is the bottom line.

Robert E. Skowronski
Sharon, VT.
Anonymous says:
Feb 01, 2009 10:44 AM
This situation is a textbook reflection of a much larger and more insidious problem within the "sport" of fly-fishing, specifically that, while fly-fishing does hold within it a rich and honorable tradition of conservation and enlightenment, it also caters to some of the most childish, self-centered, pompous, small-minded, newly rich, rightwing one-generation-from-cracker wannabes (I think I covered it all, but forgive me if I missed any) on the planet. I'm no animal rights activist; I fly-fish and tie flies whenever I get the time; I eat meat and even eat fish, even trout, on occasion; and I even raise a small herd of those damned cattle to help protect my hold on an allotment, although under tight control and certainly never in anything close to riparian habitat. But, it has always been my belief that, when you take something, you give back and set the stage to keep things whole. So, I have worked hard, used to work harder before the Butch/Sheeney Administration made it seem so futile, to get fly-fishers, trout anglers, to understand that it is only honorable to repay our disturbance of the waters by acting to preserve and conserve the resources, especially the remaining native trout species, from which we derive our pleasure. A fraction of fly-fishers join me in embracing this obligation; but, more and more, the majority only seem selfishly interested in preserving the populations of feral rainbows and browns that have come to infest their pet streams. The thought of temporarily foregoing a fishing experience in order to remove non-native species and preserve a native trout that should be in the stream is just not a sacrifice that they are willing to even think about. Bob Jacklin's role in coalescing opposition to the renovation of Yellowstone waters is a relatively minor, but clear, example. Their attitude seemed to be "damn the natives; we just want to fish." To the extent that old Sheeney likes to fly-fish, which I am sure is exaggerated for publicity sake, his role in the worst despoiling regime in America's history both illustrates my point and mocks any tradition of honorable sportsmanship that the museum may still want to cling to. ...and I'm not alone in my sentiment. One of the greatest of America's fly-fishing gurus, a guy who used to tour the conclaves with his buddies in the heyday of the late 80s and early 90s, recently confessed that his love of the sport is tainted today by the hypocrisy of those who profess the sport, but have no clue about the underlying ethics of conservation.
Anonymous says:
Feb 04, 2009 11:51 AM
Bravo and well said Mr. Williams! However, I think we may be missing something in this case. I have known a few museum directors in the past and many of them put a high value on adding mummies to their collections. This just may be the case in this situation. With Mr. Cheney’s current health problems and the fact that he already looks like a mummy may make him a good “fit” for the American Museum of Fly Fishing’s collection.
Anonymous says:
Feb 04, 2009 02:37 PM
Sorry to tell you, but your "sport" is living on borrowed time anyway. What with the population growth in the inter mountain west, you'll soon be calling the states Idafornia, Montafornia, Washifornia, Oroforniaand Colofornia. Pretty soon, it'll be just like SoCal or the "bay area" just like the one you left. Besides the biggest industry in the west is subdivision housing and strip mall construction. So go ahead and re-live your past glory days while you can because it'll soon all be gone. And then maybe you'll have to get a real job.
Anonymous says:
Feb 14, 2009 09:29 AM
Mr. Skowronski, by far my most avid reader, never fails to comment on my articles on the few sites on which he hasn’t been banned. Having banned him at Fly Rod & Reel’s site twice (the second time when he logged on under his daughter’s handle and IP), I’m gratified to see one of his posts that is at least comprehensible and free of scatological references. Little wonder that Mr. Skowronski disapproves of my advocacy for fish and wildlife because he believes that, save for the few species he enjoys killing for sport, most of it’s in the way. Here, for example, is a short passage from a screed he posted on our blog shortly before he was banned for profanity:
“Probably the best thing anyone can do for endangered species is put them out of their misery. It would help advance Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Why spend the money we need for health care on species that are not making the cut? What will we do next put the last one on life support? I say send in as many kids with pellet guns as you can find and get the job done. Species come and go all the time, it’s all natural. Why wait?”
Anonymous says:
Feb 14, 2009 09:21 PM
Hello Ted!

The issue with Vice President Cheney is not about how bad the administration was in regard to the environment and frankly I don’t doubt there is truth to what you say. What concerns me is your attempt to disrupt a potentially successful fund raiser for the Fly Fishing Museum which needs the money. More importantly I want Vice President Cheney to donating his gear to the museum because his donation to the museum has historical value. You are attempting to alter historical record. Altering historical record is the domain of tyrants, Ted! Do you really want to buy into that? It isn’t how we do things in America. There will be historians long after we are dead reviewing the history of this past administration through the clarity passing of time brings. This is important stuff you are attempting to disrupt. I realize you dislike Cheney but don’t you want future historians to be able to go to the Fly Fishing Museum to view Cheney’s gear and what ever else he gives the museum? Don’t you want the Fly Fishing Museum to have relevance to historians attempting piece together a view of the man, his actions, contradictions and their outcome on our nation, our environment, our sport? You simply don’t grasp the purpose of the museum. It isn’t the Baseball Hall of Fame and Cheney isn’t Rose who was banned! This is much bigger than that Ted. This is a past Vice President of the United States of America. The Fly Fishing Museum must graciously accept Vise President Cheney’s donation to remain relevant as a museum.

I see you continue to lack a since of humor or realize when your leg is being pulled!
The Ivory Billed Woodpecker in deed!
“Two Florida natural resource agencies and the federal agency overseeing the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s recovery effort expressed interest in the latest results of work to find the elusive woodpecker in the Florida panhandle. At the same time, while the agencies indicated the evidence to date is promising, they said the bird’s presence is not yet confirmed.” http://www.fws.gov/ivorybill/
I still crack up reading that post as much today as the moment I wrote it and better yet you still believe in The Ivory Billed Woodpecker! My word!

“…is outright whoring. This kind of prostitution is legal and no less lucrative than the standard, unlawful variety.” Ted Williams {Note: This is not the writings of the red sox ball player.}

Speaking of profanity Ted what is it with you continually applying this off colored imagery in your writing? I have seen it many times before and here you used it again in the letter you redrafted on behalf of the Fly Fishing Museum no less!
Tight Lines Ted!

Robert E. Skowronski
Sharon, VT.
Anonymous says:
Feb 16, 2009 12:38 PM
Mr. Skowronski: My original blog report that started all this was entitled “American Museum of Fly Fishing Apparently Run by Morons.” Had you been on the museum’s board, you’d have fit right in and, of course, voted with the majority. Cheney’s tackle--and there was never talk or expectation of him “donating” it--is historically worthless. The point of the invitation was strictly to fill seats, the better to shake down the public for cash. Yeah, we all need money. But painting an arch environmental villain green and thereby excusing and encouraging the abuses of fish and wildlife that he perpetrated is, as I reported, whoring. It is also a prescription for future abuse because it rewrites the history that you claim to hold so dear. If we don’t learn from history, we’ll repeat it. Remember, this is an “honor” the museum is bestowing. It’s like the Holocaust Museum holding a dinner to honor Klaus Barbie because he was an important figure in the Holocaust. Re. your little “joke” about killing all the endangered species: Good one; ha, ha. Doubtless all readers are sore from laughter.
Anonymous says:
Feb 16, 2009 12:58 PM
You drive around Casper, WY, and you that they already (a few years ago) named the Federal Bdlg. after Dick Cheney -- an appalling example of our neo-Stalinist trend of naming public buildings after not-yet-dead politicians. Last year, I watched from the Yellowstone River as Montana National Guard helicopters escoted, in formidiable formation, Dick Cheney's chopper down to the Big Horn River for a couple of days of flyfishing at a high-priced private lodge. Your tax monies at work, providing recreation for one of the chief despoilers of our Western landscape. Too bad they couldn't apply the same catch-and-release ethic to Gitmo detainees...
Anonymous says:
Feb 25, 2009 07:53 AM
Midcurrent.com is reporting this morning that the AMFF has finally confirmed that Cheney will be appearing at their annual dinner. As a result, they will never get a dime from me, nor will I ever set foot in their museum. In addition, I will urge everyone I know to do the same. Given that I live very close to large areas affected by Mr. Cheney's profligate anti-environmental agenda of the last 8 years, I don't think it will be a hard sell.
Anonymous says:
Mar 01, 2009 09:27 AM
 Its nice to hear that Nick Lyons and Ted williams are so outraged by VP dick Cheney speaking at the Museum of FF in Manchester,VT.
 Its heartening that these two immature , self-righteous people felt compelled to lash out from their Pulpits.
 I'm happy for Nick and Ted that they have discovered that they are among the Elite of us and that they have been given the Power to pass Judgment.
 As Christ said let those of you without sin cast the first stone.
 Congrats fellows you both are a piece of work.
Anonymous says:
Mar 02, 2009 07:14 PM
A Christ would not approve of the kind of despoiling of the natural environment that Dick promoted in the name of the almighty buck. Sounds like you are the one speaking from a pulpit. You should be proud of these guys for speaking up against this criminal dick cheney. I know I am.
Anonymous says:
Mar 02, 2009 07:04 PM
Thank you so much for speaking out on this cheney thing. I was afraid no one would stand up and say what needed to be said. You, Ted, said wonderfully. Thank You!
Anonymous says:
Mar 02, 2009 09:03 PM
Just saw your quote on Olberman... best I've heard about Cheney in eight years of imprisonment!!! "Green lipstick on Darth Vader"... priceless!!!
Brian Brock
Brian Brock says:
Jun 30, 2013 12:24 PM
Mr. Williams, Concerning you Op-Ed piece in the Sunday Denver Post concerning the "50,000 feral horses on BLM perpetual welfare, at an annual cost to the public of 78 million dollars, that are destroying grazing land for cattle, and their being aliens here." I find it concerning that you, or anyone else in Denver's liberal media, never addresses the 20 million Mexican border jumpers that are living in our country illegally, that have an annual cost to the taxpayer in the BILLIONS of dollars. Before you fast track feral horses to the slaughter house, maybe you should concern yourself with an issue that is much more destructive to this country than some wild horses eating the welfare cattle rancher's grass that grows on public land. Mr. Williams, how many head of cattle would you guess it takes to feed 20 million illegal Mexicans?